In response to a request by the State Attorney General’s office and bolstered by recent media coverage on transparency issues, the Rose F. Kennedy Greenway Conservancy voted to approve a new transparency policy at its February 7th Board meeting. This video contains the discussion and vote of the transparency policy. The 2-page policy document is also shown below.
As you will hear in the video, I am disappointed in the Conservancy’s policy that is simply a summary of the lacking past practice at the organization. I expected substantial adoption of the State’s Open Meeting and Public Records Laws, perhaps with some modifications for anonymous donors and fundraising. Board Chair Georgia Murray justifies the Conservancy’s position on the fact that it is a private, non-profit organization, not subject the standards of a public agency.
The Conservancy is leasing public land, the Greenway parks, built over the Big Dig tunnel throughout downtown Boston and abutting several neighborhoods. In this case, I believe the community deserves transparency at a higher level than a typical 501(c)3 organization. Vivien Li, President of The Boston Harbor Association, also noted in the discussion period that the community is looking for different information than what is often required in summarized audit documents filed by the Conservancy.
During the meeting, I explained how the Conservancy’s transparency efforts have failed in the past. When I have requested financial line item breakdowns regarding maintenance and horticulture expenses, my inquires have been put-off and ignored. There have been “public” meetings where there is no time given for the public to speak. Despite good intentions by Chair Georgia Murray to correct these deficiencies, there is nothing in the new policy that would require an appropriate response to public questions.
Full adoption of the Open Meeting and Public Records Laws is also a condition stated in the recent letter by MassDOT Secretary Davey for renewal of the Conservancy’s lease in 2014. Other than saying they plan to meet with Secretary Davey, there was no new information on negotiations with the State regarding future public funding for the Conservancy. The State currently funds about half of its $4.7 million budget.
Video: Transparency Policy Discussion and Vote to Approve, Rose F. Kennedy Greenway Conservancy, Meeting of the Board of Directors and Leadership Council on Tuesday, February 7, 2012 at 185 Kneeland St., Boston.